UCL Faculty of Arts & Humanities


Dr Gillian Greenberg - Obituary

7 September 2023

Staff from UCL Hebrew and Jewish Studies were deeply saddened to announce the passing of Dr Gillian Greenberg on 6 August 2023, at the age of 88.

Gillian was a longstanding and beloved member of the Department who taught and researched Syriac, an Aramaic language closely related to Hebrew which is crucial for our understanding of the early transmission and interpretation of the Bible, and of Near Eastern Judaism and Christianity.

Gillian came to UCL after a long first career in medicine. She worked in a specialist liver unit, then took a career break to bring up her children. She returned to research work, as a consultant to the Medical Research Council, and as a Senior Medical Officer in the Department of Health. Her research included a study of hypertension in 20,000 patients and numerous published papers.

In 1990 Gillian retired from the field of medicine and fulfilled a life-time ambition to study Semitic languages. She was the last doctoral student to complete under the supervision of the UCL eminent Peshitta expert Michael Weitzman, who died untimely in 1998. In 1999, Gillian began teaching Syriac at UCL Hebrew and Jewish Studies, which she pursued until the end of her life.

Gillian was one of only a few scholars in the UK to offer instruction in the Syriac language. Throughout her time in the Department she taught beginners and intermediate/advanced Syriac to enthusiastic groups of students who praised her clear, engaging teaching style and her specialist expertise in her subject area. She had a remarkable ability to maintain impeccably high standards while making Syriac accessible and welcoming to students of all different levels and academic backgrounds, some of whom had never studied a Semitic language previously. Students always enjoyed the rich variety of materials that she introduced them to in her classes, including samples of pagan and early Christian inscriptions and the Peshitta to the Hebrew Bible and to the New Testament, as well as lesser known Jewish and Christian texts in Syriac such as the Apocalypse of Baruch and the Chronicle of Edessa.

Gillian’s research focused on the Peshitta, the Syriac translation of the Hebrew Bible. Her particular interests were translation technique and the faith of the translators of the Peshitta. She published numerous articles and monographs in these and related fields. Among her publications are contributions to a multi-volume annotated translation of the Peshitta (Gorgias Press), and Translation Technique in the Peshitta to Jeremiah (Brill, 2002).

Gillian will be sorely missed by her colleagues at UCL Hebrew and Jewish Studies, which will not be the same without her kind, calm, caring and wise presence and her tremendous pedagogical and scholarly contributions.